Update: Earlier this week, we told you about a belated Fort Collins Police Services release on the subject of nineteen-year-old Austin Essig's leap from a third-floor window, allegedly after consuming a pot edible. See our previous coverage below.
At the time, a police spokesperson told us an investigation was underway to see if there was anything criminal about the incident, and added that the announcement had been prompted by inquiries from two Denver Police stations.
Now, the FCPS has revealed that there's been an arrest in the case.
Julieanne Jablonski, Essig's 38-year-old mother, was taken into custody on a charge of tampering with a witness — and also accused of providing a marijuana brownie to her son before he took the plunge.
The FCPS acknowledges that the latter allegation is a misdemeanor that would ordinarily be handled with a citation. The other count is the more serious one, but there have still been so many questions about why the media is focusing on the matter when, for instance, people do stupid things when drunk all the time that the executive editor of the Fort Collins Coloradoan felt compelled to write an explanation for its coverage.
As we've reported, police found Essig on the ground outside his Fort Collins-area apartment on April 14. He'd sustained serious but not life-threatening injuries that required hospitalization.
The FCPS issued an official confirmation of an inquiry into the matter six days later — and yesterday, the agency confirmed the arrest of Jablonski "for tampering with a witness and providing marijuana to an underage person."
Its release adds:
Through the investigation Fort Collins Police learned that Austin Essig...consumed one dose of an edible marijuana brownie. He had not consumed any other substance prior to or after consuming the brownie. After a short period of time he began feeling the effects of the brownie and started acting strangely. According to witnesses, Essig ran toward the living room window and jumped out of it without hesitation. The fall three stories seriously injured Essig. It was determined through the investigation that Julieanne Jablonski, Essig’s mother, provided the edible marijuana brownie consumed by Austin Essig.
The remainder of the marijuana edible brownie was collected and sent for testing to determine THC levels and to confirm if those levels correspond with the label. Those tests are pending.
Tampering with a witness is a broad offense — one that could have been violated by something as simple as Jablonski asking others involved in the incident not to say she'd given Essig the brownie.
A neighbor who'd come to Essig's aid after his fall said the teen told him he'd taken four doses of an edible — and the reference to "one dose" in the police release is almost certainly imprecise.
As for Essig, he seems to have responded to the situation via a series of posts on the Fort Collins Police Services Facebook page. The comments are linked to an Essig Facebook page that gives every appearance of being genuine.
Here's the exchange with another poster:
Austin Essig: It was quite the trip for a brownie, I can tell you that much
April 21 at 11:04am
Poster: well hello! glad you survived! that sounds like an admission. may i ask how did you, being underage, obtain the said brownie, and did you follow dosing instructions/directions?
April 21 at 3:03pm
Austin Essig: I can say I followed dosage instructions (only ate one, as opposed to my mid-incident statement), but can't honestly comment on how I got ahold of it.
April 21 at 6:07pm
Austin Essig: I can also say that my reaction to the marijuana was far from normal, and that this isn't common at all. Currently researching the subject further
April 21 at 6:13pm
Poster: interesting...ty for your honesty. i could buy booze when i was underage, so i guess that's a moot point, sorry. i am all for legal pot, and it seems these edible cases have mostly been misleading or found out later that they were total lies, yet, so...See More
April 21 at 7:44pm · Edited
Austin Essig: I try to keep my friends list trim and bare for the most part, but thanks for the offer and sentiment. I'm glad I could at least say something on the subject
April 21 at 7:44pm
Poster: FYI- one brownie=at least 4 dosages, so that might help your research...
April 22 at 9:15pm
Austin Essig: I'm well aware. I keep good track of what I say around these parts Thanks for the advice
Meanwhile, plenty of critics have suggested in reader comments and other platforms that the Fort Collins police are hyping the story and pursuing Jablonski as a way of demonizing marijuana — and these same folks have charged media organizations with aiding and abetting the cops in this process.
Fort Collins Coloradoan
Coloradoan executive editor Lauren Gustus responds in a piece entitled "Why the Coloradoan Wrote About the Marijuana Link."
"You correctly pointed out in story and Facebook comments that many people drive, jump and punch after they've had too much to drink. And that we don't report about all of those events," she acknowledges, before stressing, "Our concern was and remains this: We are welcoming a relatively new industry to our community.
"There are benefits, including tax revenues and benefits to schools that apply for marijuana tax proceeds. We'll detail some of those benefits this coming Sunday, when we explore how our community is being impacted one year after the legalization of marijuana. But with any new industry, there are also going to be things we don't know. Precedents have not yet been set.
We don't know if the edible that was ingested by Austin Essig was made by the same company that made the edible ingested by a 19-year-old college student from Wyoming last year in Denver. The Wyoming man jumped to his death from a hotel room. Autopsy reports listed marijuana intoxication as a 'significant contributing factor,' The Associated Press reported.
"We think it's important to get answers to these kinds of questions."
Look below to see the full-size version of Jablonski's booking photo, followed by our previous coverage.
Larimer County Sheriff's Office
Original post, 6:53 a.m. April 21: Yesterday, the Fort Collins Police Department announced that it was investigating an incident in which nineteen-year-old Austin Essig leaped from the window of his third-story apartment.
Essig reportedly shattered his hip and fractured his wrist in the fall.
Why are the cops looking into the tumble? They won't go into detail at this point, but a spokesman acknowledges information that Essig may have been under the influence of a marijuana edible at the time — and he concedes that the press release was prompted by media inquiries.
As for why the incident is a police matter in the first place, that requires some speculation.
Here's what we know thus far.
Last Tuesday, April 14, according to the FCPD, officers were dispatched to 1050 Hobbit Street, an address captured in the following interactive graphic. If you have problems seeing the image, click "View on Google Maps."
Upon their arrival, they found Essig on the ground beneath his apartment, unit #C23.
Essig was suffering from what are referred to as non-life-threatening injuries.
The release goes on to say that "police are investigating whether Essig ingested edible marijuana prior to jumping out the window."
Even if he did, why is this a police matter? We put that question to FCPD spokesman Sergeant Dean Cunningham.
His reply: "The investigation is to see if anyone is criminally culpable in the incident."
Cunningham doesn't elaborate.
But because Essig is only nineteen, he could only purchase a cannabis edible if he was a medical marijuana patient. If he isn't one, police may be looking into where he got the edible — if it was sold to him even though he's younger than 21, the legal age to make such a purchase, or if it was given to him by someone else.
In regard to the timing of the release, Cunningham is more forthcoming.
"The reason we sent the press release out is that a couple of news agencies in Denver — two TV stations — called us with some pretty specific information about the incident," he says. "That's why the release is six days late. They said they were going to run the story, so we put the information out to save everyone a call to us afterward."
One of those stations was clearly CBS4, whose story specifies Essig's injuries and quotes a neighbor who says he found the teen covered in glass and unsure about what happened even after smacking the ground. The neighbor tells the station Essig said he'd consumed four marijuana edibles — which, if true, is likely way above the recommended amount.
No arrests have been made in the case at this writing, and Cunningham says the FCPD is still "figuring out where the investigation is going to go."
If you have any information about the case, you're encouraged to contact Detective Scott Crumbaker at 970-416-2271 or Crime Stoppers of Larimer County at 970-221-6868. Here's the CBS4 piece.